Jets late-round picks excited to learn, make their mark on 2023 season

Jets offseason story
Nick Faria – AMNY

FLORHAM PARK — The New York Jets are in an enviable position where they don’t need to have their 2023 rookie class produce right away to start the regular seas

That’s the beauty of having one of the best all-around rosters in the league. 

It also doesn’t mean the late-round selections aren’t primed and excited to leave their marks on the organization that took a chance on them. Zaire Barnes, Zack Kuntz, and Jarrick Bernard-Converse were the last three picks of the Jets 2023 Draft Class but each brought something exciting to the table.

Bernard-Converse is a sixth-round safety that has experience playing every position in the secondary for LSU. Barnes has special teams experience as well as athleticism to improve in the big leagues, while Kuntz is a 6’8″ freak at tight end who recorded the highest RAS score in history of the position. 

With rookie minicamp coming to a close, it’s a chance for all three of the late round gambles by the Jets get their first taste of being in an NFL building. 

“It’s been quite an experience just getting out here, getting to say I practiced as a pro, getting to live in the moment,” Bernard-Converse stated. 

For the LSU defensive back, he has the size and experience to be a commodity at any position needed to play for New York. While the Jets have a need at safety, especially with the depth at the position, there’s a chance for the sixth-rounder to produce at a high-level early on. 

“We ran more a pro-style defense at LSU so I feel that can help me learn the game faster and translate over quicker,” the safety explained. “We call ourselves “DBU’ for a reason so I feel that speaks for itself.”

Bernard-Converse will have a chance to compete for a role in the secondary relatively early in his tenure with the Jets. The same might not be said for a player like Zaire Barnes. 

Barnes comes from Western Michigan and will be behind stalwart veterans like C.J. Mosley and Quincy Williams on the depth chart. That leaves the one place for the second sixth-rounder for New York to make a difference: special teams.

“I just feel the opportunity is up to me and the work I put in. I feel like special teams, it’s a major factor. I feel like I can be a factor in all four so I can’t wait to show that I can do that,” Barnes explained. “When I was at Western, I played a lot of special teams and I felt it could impact me as a defensive player and take on tackles at such a high speed. Definitely impacted me a lot.”

The former Broncos prospect possesses the same kind of athleticism that teams look for in project linebackers. To make the 53-man roster though, Barnes is hoping for his skills in special teams to help translate over to linebacker well enough. 

Being tutored by a Pro-Bowl player like Mosley will be an added bonus for the 23-year-old. 

“It means so much. He’s a great player in this league – one of the best and I can’t wait to work with him. Can’t wait to learn from him and take a lot of notes from him and be under his wing for sure,” Barnes stated. 

Barnes isn’t the only athletic freak of his draft class. In a loaded tight end group, Zack Kuntz tested higher than first round talents like Dalton Kincaid or Marcus Mayer. A knee-injury to end his final season at Old Dominion was a big reason for the 6’8″ tight end to fall all the way to the seventh-round. 

He now joins a tight end group loaded with players with starting experience. Tyler Conklin, C.J. Uzomah, and Jeremy Ruckert are all expected to be on the 53-man roster. In a loaded room, the camaraderie that comes from the 

“Just getting a feel for the room, it’s a big thing. What I love about tight ends is its a lot of guys working together, cheering for one another, and everybody’s kind of in each other’s corner,” Kuntz said. 

The raw traits that Kuntz has displayed in workouts and in practice have wowed the Jets coaching staff. In the end, that type of athleticism is exactly what the Jets are looking for with their late round selections. 

“When you get into those rounds, you are just looking for something freakish to work with.He’s got tremendous athleticism, size and all that stuff. So for us it was very easy when he was there,” Jets head coach Robert Saleh said of the tight end. 

Each of the last three draftees by the Jets have unique traints that made them selected by Gang Green. From where they go from here will be up to the players themselves earning a spot on the 53-man roster. 

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